Abbas is a founding member and Executive Director of Society for Advancement of Education (SAHE), a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization established in 1982 by a group of concerned citizens and academics responding to the deteriorating standards of education in Pakistan. Abbas is the convener for the steering committee of the Campaign for Quality Education (CQE), housed at SAHE. He was lead researcher for the Education in Pakistan: What Works & Why research initiative, the precursor to CQE. He is a member of the steering committee for Pakistan Association for Research in Education (PARE). Prior to this, he taught at the federal government Civil Services Academy. He has a number of research publications to his credit and has recently edited a book, Pakistan: Perspectives on State and Society. Abbas holds a masters degree in International Affairs from Columbia University, New York.